Friday, July 27, 2007

Toni Hafkensheid, HO, Harcourt House, July 26 - August 28, 2007

Image credit: Toni Hafkensheid, C-print, 2007.

Literally, and of course figuratively blurring the line between the real and the imagined, Amsterdam-based Hafkensheid embarked on a series of photographs depicting his impression of British Columbia, mainly, his sense that the B.C. interior greatly resembles one giant train model set.
The sharp colour contrasts, of a deep green forest and a red train against a blue sky, do of course resemble early 20th century childhood representations of train sets and old postcards.
Only, to maybe go back, those train sets were modelled after the reality of the rail road. Cutting along mountains and forests, the figure of the railway only be the first intrusion into nature.
In the last 50 years have we so rapidly abandoned train travel for a far greater number roads that when we encounter a volume of nature, we can't help but find it exotic and nostalgic.
Postcards are the traveler's memory bank of a certain place and time; and this exhibit will most likely serve metamnenonically as a reminder of what nature in the early 21st century had looked like.

Tammy Salzl, Acts of Devotion, Harcourt House, July 26 - August 25, 2007

In person, the energy of Salzl's paintings are readily more apparent than the 2D world could ever represent. Large, much larger than expected, the stand out piece was not intune with the rest of her pieces, which mainly explore the role of modern women through traditional and religious iconographies; the image of boy and presumed father, the elder readily holding a weapon in one hand and the boy's hand in the other, walking away into the distance down a deserted path, with only the boy half-looking back, there is a great sense of lost conveyed not just through the Salzl's compositional hermeneutics, but in the fading light, and the expressive strokes in the boy's face that betrays reflection.

Image "The Sacrifice" courtesy of the artist

Kelly Johner, Against the Grain, FAB Gallery, July 24 - August 18, 2007

Image: "Chinganna I, II, and III" courtesy of the artist

When keeping the natural curves of the trunks, Kelly Johner disturbs the form of her sculptures. Disturb in the sense of line and aesthetic, but also in the sense that it problematizes the cold hardness of her sculpture's steel cousins. The wood grains and trunk shapes carry too much life, appearing trapped and stacked against each and so naturally melded into this new shape. As trees themselves are almost perfect structures, and where steel has none, to experience a wooden sculpture of abstract and awkward proportions was unsettling.
However, a piece like "Shoulder In", which keeps the lines straight and clean and doesn't reveal the material's formal qualities, certain carried a great presence inside the gallery. As an exercise in exploring form, as displayed with the entry way's "Chinganna I, II, III" sculptures (identifical miniature figures varying from beeswax, wood, and cement) Johner's pieces reconsiders the material matter as the central identity to a piece of art.

Monica Pitre, Of Night, Light and Half-Light, FAB Gallery, July 24 - August 18, 2007

Perhaps one of the most articulate artists around, Pitre reveals her MFA thesis to be full of astounding surprises. "This Can't be Contained" (#1 & 2) are simply the most mesmerizing pieces. Floating off the wall, haunting, hiding, long after the visual memory has faded, there is something lingering. Undefined, but perhaps, not yet to be defined.
The show as a whole espouses a deep remanent of nature without strictly "representing" nature as picture, but nature as sense and emotion.
As a tangent, one can't help but be reminded of the starry muddy waters in Charles Laughton's "Night of the Hunter," of the children floating away on the luminiscent blackness--and it is this overwhelming feeling, or perhaps memory of a return, that remains so striking.

Edmonton's 'Emerging' artists get ready to stake out their own TURF, Peter Robertson Gallery, July 19 - August 11, 2007

The buzz of Millennials set to rule the world has been slowly but steadily growing in anticipation. Millennials, that post-Gen Y generation of 20- to 35-year-olds who are destined (perhaps simply by time) to take control, have been coming of age for as long as MySpace and the iPod have been around.
A quick summary of facts and figures: in North America alone, this generation (mostly born after 1977) will not only be the wealthiest generation the world has ever produced, but also the most educated. On every level of economy and culture, the impact of the Millennials will be felt.

The City of Edmonton created a task force called NextGen in the hopes of retaining this next generation, convincing them to stay here and prosper—and in this port town, that’s not a bad idea.

Trickling down to the arts sector, which has been sitting as a malnourished industry isolated as a potential positive factor on the road to maintaining a well-rounded and attractive city, Edmonton’s visual art scene has mostly remained invisible outside of our provincial borders. Strangle held by the 1960s sweep of formalist modernism, the forefathers of the art scene (namely U of A professors—and well-respected artists in their own right—Graham Peacock and Peter Hide) should now be pointed out as that first generation of artists who forged a scene where there was nothing prior to contend with. Moving to Edmonton early in their careers from the UK in the late ’60s, their influence has continued to dominate our visual arts scene 30 years after they first broke new ground.
Local artists continually flee to greener pastures, where their art can grow without the unnecessary frame of regurgitated Greenbergian readings and where studio spaces are at least affordable. But for those who are electing to stay, the second generation is looking forward and not back for a movement it can call its own.

TURF, an exhibition of emerging artists from the Edmonton/Calgary region currently showing at the Peter Robertson Gallery until Aug 11, looks to address the future harvest of artistic talent. Billing the large assembly exhibition as an exhibition of emerging artists, the definition of “emerging” is as diverse as the artists represented.

“‘Emerging’ is just art lingo for price point,” explains Peter Robertson, owner of the commercial gallery that has a strong collection of contemporary Canadian works. “We’re looking to expose our clients to some new people, and also to see how these works perform in the gallery space.”
Admittedly a painter-centric exhibition of works, with co-curators and exhibiting artists Tricia Firmaniuk and Cynthia Gardner being both painters themselves, TURF is the first time the gallery has turned to represent the local scene in its three-year history.

“Tricia and I have talked about it before,” Robertson concedes, before pointing out that contemporary Edmonton has yet to spawn an artist or a movement that has really broken out on any commercial level.

A collector before he took over the former space of Vanderleelie Gallery, Robertson has witnessed the frustrating progression of the visual arts scene.
“Artists thrive when they leave Edmonton,” he states plainly, before pointing out that Edmonton is a conservative place with little avant-garde happening.
Firmaniuk would agree. As the central curator who selected artists she had seen over the last number of years, she feels the scene here is healthy and diverse, but still young.
“A lot of good work is being made here,” she says confidently. “I think there’s new interest in abstraction and a move towards more figurative work. People are getting away from academia and the idea of permissiveness. There’s definitely a lot of valid ways to be working.”

Judging from the broad spectrum of artists and media represented, the age of postmodern curating is what strikes you first about the diversity.
Traditional oil and acrylics, interspersed with mixed media, one photography-based artist, UV screen prints, digital outputs and anything else applicable to a 2D surface grace the exhibition walls. At first glance, the works and artists are all strong as individual works, but within the context of a group show, the exhibition serves well as an introductory sample of contemporary Alberta-based 2D visual artists working under the age of 40.

For Sarah Ewashen, one of three Calgarians represented and an ‘07 graduate of ACAD, TURF is her first gallery exhibition. Two large-scale figurative drawings adorn the back south wall, one traditional in its resemblance to Japanese lithography while the other, aptly titled “Anybody,” is an estranging hybrid of cultures, religions and gender.
Like most new graduates, Ewashen now blankly faces the slippery slope of post-art school withdrawal.
“I’m mainly looking for a balance between living and staying true to my art,” she muses when asked about the dreaded “Now what?” situation. “I am looking at more the business side to survive.”

Like her peers within the exhibition, commercial galleries have either not been of interest or not within reach.

In fact, immediately upon entry to the show, there are works by Paul Freeman, arguably not an emerging artist by most standards, but an accomplished artist who has rooted himself in the community through actively exhibiting and administering over the past ten years.

“I’ve targeted public, artist-run institutions, as I’m more interested in just getting people to see the work,” he says. “In this town, there is a legacy to contend with, and I think the artist-run centres have to re-evaulate their role in the community, but I think there’s now more room than before for more stuff to happen.”
Freeman’s works deal mostly with the representation of dead animals in various media and styles, and his ropey chalk pastel carcasses sit directly across the room from the raised 2D works by Harcourt House’s current artist-in-residence, Beth Pederson.

A graduate of NSCAD in 2003, Pederson’s pieces were created this past year courtesy of her studio space as Harcourt’s A-I-R. Bathroom pipes and other everyday objects you see and use and never pay much attention to have evolved from their canvases and assumed their own tangible presence. As Pederson’s magnification on the idea of the simple object continues to grow, she and fellow artist/partner Shane Krepakavich (also in TURF, but currently overseas) doesn’t know if they will be able to grow here.

“The shortage of space is a problem,” she says in her quiet manner. “But there’s also not enough happening culturally, at least not in the visual arts. There’s a lack of awareness, and a lack of appreciation. It just seems people are more interested in buying trucks.”

A Shortage of affordable studio space is a continuous plague, but with the crushing boom and absorption of any available spaces for rent, most artists are finding it near impossible to find a space not just to work, but also to live.

There are, of course, artists who have founded a stable community around them for support and inspiration. Housemates and artists Monica Pitre, Andrea Pinheiro and Gillian Willans are all represented in TURF, and will also be having a group show coming up in ArtsHab playing on the theme of cohabitation. Pitre, who is currently premiering her MFA in printmaking, has two earlier works on display, as she feels that they’re more representative of the idea of “emerging.”
“Basically, I never considered myself an artist when I was doing my BFA,” Pitre explains matter-of-factly. “It was when I started my Masters, feeling that dedication and commitment and knowing that I will never be without this, is when I started to feel like an artist.”
Pitre is also one of 19 recipients out of 142 applicants for the first round of the Edmonton Explorations Grant that will lead into a large-scale public art project this fall. Wrapping up her Masters, the idea of “emerging” versus “mid-level” labels is clearly not of consequence.

Her housemate Willans, on the other hand, marks the impetuousness of “just doing” as a sign of being an emerging artist.

“The reality is, you just have to start doing when you are emerging,” she says, before explaining some of the history of what being “emerging” in Edmonton means. “My parents moved here in the late ’60s just as all of this modernist art was starting to
happen, so as a second-generation Edmontonian, I feel Edmonton is growing up at the same time and finding its own voice and getting away from this foundation of nepotism.”

As a board member for SNAP Gallery as well as having left Edmonton for Toronto for a number of years, Willans very much relates Edmonton’s art scene as an adolescent teenager in the stage of trying everything.

“It’s not a negative remark, but positive, in that we’re finding ourselves. You can be brought up under one way, but there’s always the time when you start doing your own thing.”
Digging their heels into Edmonton’s turf, the artists and emerging artists of tomorrow are certainly breaking new ground on their terms.

First published in Vue Weekly, July 26 - 31, 2007. Print and Online.

Interview with Tammy Salzl, "Acts of Devotion" Harcourt House July 26 - August 25, 2007

Expanding and exploring issues of identity in her ongoing series of paintings about young women, Tammy Salzl certainly lives the way she paints. Feeling somewhat distant from the arts community, in both social and physical separation, and feeling estranged in the suburban neighborhood life from where she raises a young family, Salzl straddles both these seemingly opposite worlds in a constant state of discomfort—but charges ahead with an ingrained sense of self-persistence.

“I was pretty disillusioned after school,” she says (Salzl graduated from the University of Alberta in 1996, after first completing three years at ACAD). “I was never one of those star students that churned out work that looked like their professors, and it took me years until I was confident of what I wanted to paint.”
Seeing herself as the opposite of Eric Fischl, the American painter who grew up in the comforts of Long Island’s suburbs and later discovered the seedy underbelly of city life, Salzl was herself raised in the inner city, only coming to experience suburban life when she became an adult.

Her newest show, Acts of Devotion, reveals a turning point in her young career. Always exploring the notions of nature vs nurture, and exploring that there is more than just a binary to how we shape ourselves, Salzl frames her latest series within historical and religious tropes—images that were traditionally used as a moral guide.

“I think we live with a lot of stereotypes and derogatives and stigmatism, but I don’t think it’s that simple,” she says. “You can’t just slot it in either/or.”
Salzl’s works are progressing further from the personal and contemplative nature of how we relate to one another into exploring the social context of power relations.

“There’s a cost of artifice to keep up the façade of femininity,” she says contemplatively. “There is always a collision between ‘beautiful’ and ‘confrontational’ in the portrayal of women, and there is a price we pay for the mask we wear.”

Described as an aggressive painter who revels in the physical sensation of painting itself, Salzl’s background in sculpture reveals itself as fleshy bodies and limbs, giving the appearance that the models were sculpted, rather than painted with the viscosity of oil.

Her newer paintings situate modern-day women in iconoclastic environments, taking traditional poses and daily acts of ritual and updating them to today’s fashion and aesthetic, and in so doing reconfiguring the idolatry of representing women.

Working from real life individuals that she photographs in various states, Salzl confesses, “I always tell my models that the painting isn’t about them, that they’re just ‘the models,’ but in truth a bit of their person or history always works its way into the painting.”
As a full-time mother and a full-time artist, and as an individual attempting to see the world in relation with everything around her, she responds, “I’m just trying to reflect back and unravel something, a personal resonance, a look, a gesture, that maybe someone else can relate to. I am trying to give expression to my own experience.”

First published in Vue Weekly, July 25 - 31, 2007. Print and Online.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Prairie Artsters: Vue Weekly July 25, 2007

Walking through the most recent edition of Art Walk, arguably the best site for artists and pedestrians to come tête-à-tête with one another, there was a greater expectation to something inspiring, to define what we should call “art.”

In many ways, Art Walk serves as a decorative refresher to an urban stroll through the city. In theory, art in public places makes the city more attractive and appealing. In practice, the art in discussion was sometimes worth a closer glance, but not often.

Not to dismiss pedestrian art altogether, but most of the pieces found on Art Walk were on display for sale—as such, most were safe, appealing decorations. There’s space for that type of art, but block after block I was hoping for something more engaging.

Walking east on the north side of Whyte with large canvasses of still life and travel photography propped up all along the way, the scenery made me think of what-could-be if and when the 118 Avenue community proposal goes underway.

Developers believe the area to be the “next” arts district, and a community proposal wants to use art as a way to boost civic morale and improve the overall neighbourhood aesthetic. The art in discussion would consist of family-orientated pieces in empty store fronts a la The Works, but they are purportedly borrowing this public-art model from Boston’s Art Windows project from 2005.

A venture by the city of Boston and Boston-area artists, digital art works confronted pedestrians in the down-and-out downtown crossing area in an example of a successful revitalization project. One example of street-level art from Boston was a large digital green happy face that turns sombre whenever a pedestrian passes by. Still safe and appealing, the difference is in its level of consideration for the transient nature of the experience. Engaging with the act of walking, and by execution understanding art in public spaces as an exercise in creating something innovative and interactive, art can be inspiring.

When asked, Art Walk alumni from this year and previous have said they did it for the exposure. Exposure to the general public, connections to fellow fringe artists and the opportunity to connect one-on-one about something you obviously believe in are not restricted to only those with something to sell. The defining character of Art Walk is the interaction that goes on between artists and the public; here’s only hoping that future Art Walks (or any use of public space for art) will consider expanding the general understanding of “art” beyond 2D commodities.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

TURF, Peter Robertson Gallery July 19 - August 11, 2007

Nobody Found It Truthful #3, Monica Pitre 2005 UV Screen Prints
Image courtesy of Peter Robertson Gallery

With an impressive roster of artists from Edmonton and Calgary, TURF represented a wide array of discplinies within the 2D world from artists with limited commercial experience. With the tag of being an "emerging" artist exhibition, the definition of emerging was as diverse as the art represented. From ideas of age and number of shows, to values of commodity and personal self commitment, emerging as a concept is evidently only relevant as a funding strucutre.
A beautiful exhibition space, easily argued as one--if not the best venue in Edmonton, the different spaces within the gallery could have housed artists at various similiar stages or translated somehow the great spectrum of work being completed in abstraction, conceptual, and non-traditional figurative.
With a fair share of recent and older works, the exhibition overall was a calculated, yet mix-bag showing of the budgeoning and yet to-be-defined arts scene currently sprouting across the prairies.The exhibition could have done well with paring down the list of artists even more so, or just streamlined the discplines a bit more, but the fact of the matter is, the overwhelming sense of diversity was inspiring.

Shane Krepakevich
Image courtesy of Peter Robertson Gallery

Although several artists had works that were over two years old, in perspective, they are still new to the commercial setting. More artists than ever are coming out of the institutions, and although a new wave is on the horizon, it may be still too far to see the limits and shape of what this wave will look like. But if TURF was an indication of things to come, there is an excitment that artists are working within the mindframe that anything is certainly possible.

Artists: Farah Denkovski, Amanda Espezel, Sarah Ewashen, Tricia firmaniuk, Paul Freeman, Nicole Gallelilis, Cynthia Gardiner, Duncan Johnson, Shane Krepakavich, Sean Montgomery, Beth Pederson, Andrea Pinheiro, Monica Pitre, Nicole Rayburn, Wenda Salomons, Gillian Willans, and Cody Zaiser

Friday, July 20, 2007

Capital Ex Art July 19 - 28, 2007

Not many would associate Capital Ex with an art exhibition, but inside Hall A, adjoining the Capital Casino and behind the craft vendors, is a garden art exhibition.
Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts is prominently on display, and if you weave in and around the faux stone garden, you'll find diorama sculptures, an art "snack" vending machine, along with 2D works on sale from the centre--which continues to foster and nurture artists with development disabilities.
Hanging overhead on several metal gates is Ted Kerr's work from the Shell Scotford residency; The Paint Spot has set up on one side of the room with a drop-in craft centre; large scale "organic" art made from blueberry oils and crushed diamonds took up several panels in the middle of the space; and Phil Alain's Night of Artists round out the rest of the space.
There was little lighting and the general atmosphere was hollow and rather depressing, but encountering unknown artist Myka Jones was all that was all that was needed to salvage the entire experience. Aside from the usual fray of dime-a-dozen still lifes of flower petals and wine bottles, Jones textural swipes of energy and muted colours continually drew in the eye. Extremely simple, the works communicated an unmeticulous and joyous sense of abandonment to all structure and form. (The ideas may not be new, but rarely does work made in this vein reflect the theories they are based upon.)
With no background information whatsoever available for Jones, the only assumption can be made that this artist is extremely young in career or has only just began to exhibit after years of seclusion. A guess would be made for the former, as Jones' pieces emanate something pure (a quality that usually fades with time).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Art Walk, July 13 - 15, 2007

In its 12th year, Art Walk fell on one of the hottest, muggiest weekends of the summer. That didn't stop pedestrians from strolling up and down Whyte, but it did certainly hinder the mood of many vendors. Always the prime venue for artists to reach the very general public, I couldn't help but feel disappointed by the lack of non-commodified art. Art Walk, for most, remains a place to only sell art; but in its history, there have been a very few occasions of performance art and conceptual art, none of which is for sale, but on display for the high volume of transient public to take in a broader sense of "art."
Owning originals is just a baby step to further advancing the art scene here, but giving space and time for investigative art will hopefully become more prominent in future editions of Art Walk.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Prairie Artsters: Vue Weekly July 11, 2007

As discussed in an interview within these pages with cohort Mary Christa O’Keefe, I decided to start up my blog, back in April of this year as a way to document the Edmonton visual arts scene in a consistent and critical fashion. With a burgeoning flux of local exhibitions, a handful of previews per month was no longer sufficient or even remotely satisfactory.

There is a real and diverse visual arts community here, but you would never know it from just absorbing media. The handful of local arts writers (all three or four of us) are often bound to covering the “legitimate” shows up in commercial and artist-run galleries. In comparison to the local music scene, this would basically be the equivalent of only previewing gigs happening at Rexall, Shaw Conference and Commonwealth—minus the defining review that situates a community as “being there” too and deciphering together an experience and an effort.

There are of course exceptions, like the installation-driven curation behind “The Apartment Show” that occurred in the spring and the do-it-yourself graffiti posters of the “Make It Not Suck” projects along Jasper Avenue—both of which received plenty of media attention, with the latter spurning a lot of discussion. This needs to happen more, across the board, if this relatively young arts community is going to survive and gain notoriety.

But even these two independent shows are just the larger tips of the metaphorical iceberg happening within Edmonton’s arts scene. There are low-key art exhibits and openings happening in restaurants and cafes, record shops, hair salons, basements, flower shops and other spaces all across the city. The arts scene is invisible to those outside of it, and the scene is deaf and mute to those within it.

Starting with this edition, Prairie Artsters will be a biweekly column in Vue Weekly as a print companion to the ongoing reviews online. The print version will fall more along the lines of ruminations on a cluster of shows or something equivalent.

Everyone is talking about the economic boom, but the reality is that most artists will or already have been abandoned by it. All that remains is the work and the voices in the community, and for this community to foster and develop, work—and thoughtful discussions of the works produced—needs a communal venue from which to grow.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Be:Hive, Sydney Lancaster and Jenny Keith-Hughes, Cafe Select South, July 7, 2007

Image courtesy of Jenny Keith-Hughes, 2007

Born from a playdate between Hughes and Lancaster in the latter's studio some months back, these two Edmonton-based artists are exploring their sense of mixed media represenation through the use of wax. Although not an entirely new form, or even exclusive within Edmonton (Jennifer Berkenbosch is just one other), the pairing between Lancaster and Hughes provides a complimentary view of nature itself. While Lancaster applies 3D objects, from bones to feathers, directly onto her canvasses, Hughes continues her whimisical drawings of nature's creatures sometimes caught out of their element (Although Hughes is new to the medium, she is extending her form into the abstract, a new mode of expression but one that is entirely promising) .
Where one is abstract, the other is vividly concrete. Where Hughes provides a story of nature, Lancaster places the actual object directly before the audience.
The use of wax can't help but give off a sense of warmth, and fragrance, as the beeswax is not only visually and olfactorially pleasing, but also haptically engaging. More apparent than most paintings, the sense of the artist's hand in wax is evident in its tracings and uneven porous nature.

Image courtesy of Sydney Lancaster, 2007

Ka-Pow! Group Show, Profiles Gallery July 5 - 28, 2007

Image used with permission from Profiles Gallery, Tony Baker, Bly, 2006

Originally slated as a Tony Baker exhibition, artists Murray Allen, Kib (aka, Tristian McClelland) and Christopher Zaytsoff ended up rounding out the Ka-Pow! show. Baker, who was classically trained at the University of Alberta and has since relocated to Toronto, continues on the lineage of stripping down the 2D representation of his world into the basic rudimentary lines and colours that we associate with children's drawings. The product is often "childlike," but upon closer inspection, his training of relearning how to draw and see the world, his keen sensitivity shines through--perhaps childlike as well . . . but with great depth.
The curator's decision to add the other artists to the show was based on the observation that all of them were working in very similiar veins. Murray Allen, making mini wall sculptures and diaramas using kitschy scraps (everything from old barbie doll parts to novelty license plates and anything you would imagine in a well-stocked junk cellar), does indeed have an extremely playful quality that may be construed as either a child's mishmash or a commentary on waste and commodity. There is undeniably an aura of darkness to Allen's modules, as the same can be said of Kib and Zaytsoff's pieces, all explosive depictions of fantastical creatures emanating a profound sense of alienation.
At first, the attachment of the extra artists felt cheap and a gesture of disrespect to Baker's pieces, which in themselves are visually strong and were threaded a loose character narrative. Baker alone could carry a show, but on second thought, the mixture of Baker and the three outsider artists, and how all their works were indeed visually similiar even if they arrived from opposite directions, was an interesting contrast.

Image courtesy of Profiles Gallery, Kib and Christopher Zaytsoff, Secret Doors, 2007

At this point in all of their careers, probably spanning some forty years in age from oldest to youngest, they are all at the same juncture of expressing a similiar aesthetic voice. And although the title of the exhibition may express something fun and childish, the effect of the exhibtion overall is much more demure.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Final Impressions: The Works 2007

Throughout the past 13 days, visits were made to the square repeatedly to catch glimpses of "live" art. From the theatre troupe in all white and drowned out by the stage music, to the tin foil sculpting of figures and tree trunks, to the fun but slightly disappointing painting of the entry arches, the artistic demonstrations were less interactive and more observational. Not that it was all bad. Providing the festival with a glimpse of genius and beauty, pianist James Carson along with Mile Zero Dance's large ensemble cast in all black evening wear lulled down the interior marble stairs of City Hall and sustained their 30 minute set into the outdoor wading pool. The imagery of bodies in dance, all black against white, slowly rising and falling, fit in well with a visual arts festival and audience; but in conflict for the second year in a row, dance became the strongest visual feast in both 2 and 3D offerings.

Rounding out the last few Works-curated shows, catching (or almost missing if I wasn't puprosely looking) the glass works inside BMO and the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald, Jeff Collins at Sutton Place, the Grant MacEwan student show at Alberta College, the multimedia exhibit at Concrete, it was Gerry Rasmussen and Roger Garcia's "Stripped Down" at Rigoletto's Cafe that demonstrated what this festival may be at.

Image courtesy of Roger Garcia, 2007

Taking the often flippant form of cartoon and applying their sensibilites to the traditional nude form, local cartoonists Garcia and Rasmussen stretched their craft in very impressive ways. The pieces themselves may be the best works by either artist; Garcia known for his work in local weeklies and Rasmussen best known for his syndicated cartoon, Betty. Although each artist brings their distinct line and characteristic shadowing techniques to the human body, neither hyperbolize or caricaturize the body and expresses a deft sense of restraint and sensitivity.

Image courtesy of Gerry Rasmussen, 2007

The result offers a very rough and honest representation of a form that often gets yawned over. Peering over the perturbed shoulders of noon hour diners, the exhibit was exceptional. It also revealed that the festival, for all its quirks and ongoing faults, does not cater to a canonical representation of visual arts, but embraces all artists at all levels and art forms. Public art in alternative spaces may no longer hold true; but alternative art in public spaces still has resonance. Panning through all the exhibits, there turned out to be a few hidden gems--but within context, you really have to wade through it all to find the good stuff.